Experts from MSU to provide insight on cherry, apple production

The MSU AgBioResearch Clarksville Research Center will host its annual Cherry Variety and High-Tech Research Showcase July 9.

July 1, 2013 - Author: Holly Whetstone

CLARKSVILLE, Mich.  – The MSU Clarksville Research Center will host its annual Cherry Variety and High-Tech Research Showcase July 9. The event features MSU AgBioResearch scientists and MSU Extension specialists discussing fruit topics such as new varieties, market opportunities, training and hedgerow systems, and various ways to use technology in orchard management.

Phil Schwallier, MSU Extension fruit educator, will lead a mini-workshop on apple thinning in the morning. Thinning is a process that helps to improve the quality of the fruit by reducing the crop load. 

“Growers will learn about various apple thinning strategies as well as tree hedging,” Schwallier said.

Educational sessions will begin at 1 pm.

Jim Flore, MSU AgBioResearch scientist and professor of horticulture, will lead a session on bloom delay using solid set canopy delivery spray systems. They’re generally used to spread pesticide treatments effectively and evenly on trees. Flore has conducted research that shows that using these systems to spray water on the buds can delay bloom 10 to 14 days on average.

“Growers can also use technology out in the orchards to collect data on temperature and humidity, and then the systems can be programmed to mist the cherries at the most effective times,” said Flore, adding that this type of management could be especially valuable for high-density apple and cherry varieties.

In light of last year’s devastating late frost, techniques like this could be invaluable for crop protection in the future.

“If we had had systems like this last year, we might have been able to save some of the lost crop,” he said. “It’s important for growers who have the solid set systems to know that these options are available to them at little extra cost.”

Nikki Rothwell, center coordinator for the MSU Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Center in Traverse City, will bring early cherry varieties to the showcase. She will be joined by MSU professor of horticulture Greg Lang and fruit growers Wallace Heuser and Wanda Heuser Gale.

“Growers will have an opportunity to see, taste and learn about these new cherry varieties that we’ve been testing,” Rothwell said. “Wallace and Wanda are growers that we collaborate with on these new varieties, and their contribution has been invaluable. Their nursery work is giving us vital information on how to make new varieties commercially viable.”

MSU has also been collaborating Cornell University associate chair of department of horticulture Susan Brown (recently named associate director of the New York Agricultural Experiment Station), on various subjects. 

“In working toward developing new sweet cherry varieties, we want to give growers the option to try fresh market cherry production as well,” Rothwell said. “Michigan has historically been a production cherry state, which is definitely the backbone of our industry. Now we want to give those growers who are interested the chance to grow fresh market cherries. We have many large cities in and close to Michigan, so the market opportunity is definitely there.”

Other topics that will be discussed at the event include:

  • Spotted-wing drosophila management.
  • High efficiency sweet cherry training systems.
  • Sweet cherry covering systems (Cravo, VOEN, Haygrove, bird netting).
  • Tart cherry hedgerow systems for over-the-row harvesters.

The event will also feature an orchard technologies question-and-answer session.

Presenters include Amy Iezzoni, professor of horticulture and cherry breeder; Amy Irish Brown, MSU Extension educator; Larry Gut, professor of entomology; Bill Shane, senior MSU Extension specialist; and Ron Perry, professor of horticulture.

“With all the new growing systems and technologies that MSU has worked on, I think growers in our state are going to have a lot more opportunities to improve their current production, try new techniques and break into new markets,” Rothwell said.

The showcase is sponsored by MSU Extension, Summit Tree Sales and International Plant Management. For more information, call 1-800-424-2765.  There is no registration fee, and a complimentary lunch will be served.

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